Memoirs of A Geisha

I watched the movie Memoirs of A Geisha last Saturday. As always, I was quite reluctant to watch it at first. This is due to the fact that the main characters of Sayuri and Mameha are played by Chinese instead of Japanese (Sayuri – Zhang Ziyi, Mameha – Michelle Yeoh). I have nothing again Chinese but I just prefer the original nationalities to play. It’s like how anime fans prefer Japanese audio tracks instead of dubbed (English or Chinese). Luckily the Chairman was played by Ken Watanabe.

Anyway, the movie was great. The movie was accurate word by word as I remembered from the book (which I read in 1999) written by Arthur Golden in 1997.

The story starts from an old Japanese village where a poor family had to give out their children. Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo) and her older sister Satsu (Samantha Futerman) were brought to Gion; Chiyo was sold to an okiya (Geisha house) while her sister was sold to a brothel (prostitute house).

The ending? Well you have to go and see it for yourself. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but if you really want to know just go to this page on wikipedia: Memoirs of A Geisha.

As the movie progressed forward, I can recall what I have read in the book. One significant thing that’s missing is when she sold her mizuage (virginity) to Doctor Crab (Randall Duk Kim) – Keymaker in the Matrix. In the book, Doctor Crab actually keeps the virgin blood in a case as souvenir. Kind of sick, but it was explained in the book. Apparently Doctor Crab is a wealthy man who likes to bid on mizuage.

On the language used, some people mentioned that it is quite difficult to understand what they are saying. I agree with that. However I also realize the intentions of the director to make it sound like Japanese. One amusing thing is that the character Pumpkin’s (Youki Kudoh) drastically changed – I guess because she has been around US soldiers a lot, towards the end of the movie.

By the way, in the movie, Sayuri = Chiyo’s new name when she ‘graduated’ as a Geisha.

From my readings, I found that this is not a true story, but rather a fiction created by the author. This movie was banned from being released in China – I don’t want to elaborate.

Golden was actually sued by Mineko Iwasaki – the Geisha he interviewed to get contents for his book. According to Mineko Iwasaki, there was a lot of manipulation in the book, and Golden’s act for putting her name in the book’s acknowledgement is in fact a breach of trust since he promised total anonimity.

Mineko Iwasaki later published her own autobiography, Geisha of Gion. It’s a bestseller worldwide. I haven’t read it yet but am planning to 🙂 This is her attempt to tell her own side of the story.